Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Smashing those sugary confections

Like everybody else in the world I downloaded Candy Crush to my phone and have been busily destroying masses of sweets with enormous chains of explosions.  Unlike everybody else I have declined to funnel huge sums of money to the creators of Candy Crush - I am content to play for free and to stop for the day when my 5 lives run out.  I feel like I should give a nod to other game creators out there when they do something right and Candy Crush deserves credit.  It has a ton of things going for it and its remarkable financial success (to the tune of $750,000 a day) is not random or lucky, it is because the game is extremely well designed.

Getting the proper mix of randomness and skill in a single player game is key.  CC definitely has skill involved as on many levels I sit and stare at the screen for many minutes at a time trying to plan out a huge chain of effects and when I do I am much more successful.  That said, there are times I play a level and fail to get the required 50k points and the next time I get 300k points - it is still true that is it better to be lucky than good.  The mix here is just right because I can feel myself improving and notice that levels get easier with practice but even if I was really bad I could still win just by slamming myself into the RNG over and over.  At some point of terribleness the player is essentially waiting on cosmic sort / time sort but it *will* happen.

CC also has a couple of ways to buy into the game and I really like their strategies.  Buying powerups is something you might not think to do unless you are familiar with how much they help so they make sure the free player gets a trickle of them to entice them to buy more; giving them the first hit for free as it were.  They also get that people should pay to play rather than pay to not play - some free to play games essentially allow the player to skip the game by spending cash and that really shortens the lifespan (not to mention enjoyment) of the game.  CC on the other hand gets it right and lets people who want to play more pay more to do so.

CC also has a great method for experiencing and skipping content.  There is a cutesy map and cut scenes and such for those who enjoy such things but I can trivially zip past them to the game.  They make it very easy to spam your friends on Facebook or hand them cash but it isn't a constant strain or hassle to avoid those things.  They fit their requests for cash very smoothly into the experience and avoid the mistake of making free players bitter or under assault.  Everything in the game feels like it is there for a reason and it is clearly not designed to try to irritate me into opening my wallet.

The one complaint that I have about CC is the unbelievable power draw.  I can run every app I own at once and all of them combined don't use as much power as CC does.  A simple game like this shouldn't cause my phone to become hot to the touch!  I think this might be a much bigger flaw for a player willing to pay for more playtime because they would likely run their phone right out of juice and have to stop anyway.  For me it ends up being annoying but I always run out of lives before I run out of power so it isn't a catastrophe.

So to those who made the game:  Good job.  You are getting ludicrously wealthy and while you may not 'deserve' it exactly I submit for the record that you are building swimming pools to hold your cash for some very good reasons.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently most people who finish the game do so without paying: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/10449507/Candy-Crush-Saga-hits-500m-downloads-one-year-after-launch.html